FAME costs: A conversation with Erica Gimpel
Erica Gimpel is a true mixed martial performing artist. From her hometown of New York City, she graduated from the prestigious High School of Performing Arts (the school Fame was based on) and landed the iconic role of Coco Hernandez on the FAME TV series. She moved on to play major roles in big shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Profiler, E.R., Nikita, and Criminal Minds.
She is equally adept in the disciplines of music and theatre. She released her first album, Spread Your Wings and Fly in 2010, and has another one in the works.
MMA Crossfire: Welcome, Erica. I wanted to talk about some of the stuff you’re doing right now and also recap your last album.
Erica Gimpel: Sure, I’d love to share that. And I want to let you know I checked out your YouTube channel and I thought that was really sweet, the French person that went to Japan.
MMA Crossfire: Thanks, you mean Georges St-Pierre?
Erica Gimpel: Yes, that was sweet.
MMA Crossfire: Thank you! Have you been to Japan?
Erica Gimpel: Yes, I have. I went on kind of a spiritual training course. I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for 26 years so I went there as sort of a deepening of an understanding of my practice.
MMA Crossfire: Fascinating. Let’s recap your last album.
Erica Gimpel: The album is called Spread Your Wings and Fly and that title song is my anthem for women. The inspiration for it was an organization here in Los Angeles called The Downtown Women’s Centre and it’s helped for the last thirty years women who have been homeless on the streets get permanent housing and kind of get them back on their feet. What I had conceptualized was a benefit concert honouring and really supporting the end of homelessness. And honouring the organization too for all the great work they’ve been doing.
And for me personally, the record, the journey is a lot of things. It’s an appreciation I have for my parents; love; having love in life; being loved; romantic love. It’s a very personal journey and something that I wanted to do for a long time.
MMA Crossfire: It comes across as elegant and classy. I like the track Rising.
Erica Gimpel: Thanks. That came from a friend of mine who is a wonderful musician and had a jam session in her house. Some of the greatest musicians in L.A. would show up there and jam in her house for hours. I started that as a jam at her house and then just evolved it to the tune you heard.
MMA Crossfire: I see. And obviously you were involved in all aspects of the record. Is that side just as enjoyable as the creative side?
Erica Gimpel: Yeah I mean the producing of the record took it to a whole other level of listening. The playing of it, shaping it so that it shines in the best light. So there’s different aspects of the songs. How can we bring it out the various qualities of the song.
MMA Crossfire: Right. And then after that album, you were still doing your thing in the other avenues.
Erica Gimpel: I just did three episodes of Nikita. I’m not sure you knew that…
MMA Crossfire: I did take a look on IDMB and I did see that.
Erica Gimpel: Yeah. That’s how I thought you contacted me. Yeah, I was in Canada for some months, in Toronto and that was a really great experience, a great character. And I also am working on the show Criminal Minds here in the United States…
MMA Crossfire: Yes, I heard of Criminal Minds.
Erica Gimpel: Yes, that show.
MMA Crossfire: So when you did Nikita, was that your first time in Toronto?
Erica Gimpel: Yes it was my first time.
MMA Crossfire: Did you get a chance to visit anything?
Erica Gimpel: It was really difficult honestly, because of the hours of the show. I really wanted to go to the galleries. I mean I would go out to different restaurants and stuff, but I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted.
MMA Crossfire: Well maybe next time, because I think would be a great choice for one of your concerts…
Erica Gimpel: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
MMA Crossfire: Peter Ustinov once said Toronto is New York City run by the Swiss.
Erica Gimpel: (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: It’s one big melting pot and it seems to share a lot of attributes with your hometown there.
Erica Gimpel: Where are you from originally?
MMA Crossfire: I was born in Toronto.
Erica Gimpel: Wow, that’s your hometown.
MMA Crossfire: Yes. My parent’s heritage is Guyanese – South American.
Erica Gimpel: Ah.
MMA Crossfire: So yeah, I think it would be a great choice. You’re probably working on another album?
Erica Gimpel: Yes, I have all of the music ready to go for the next record.
MMA Crossfire: Is there a title?
Erica Gimpel: The tentative title is Believe in You, but I’m in the process of putting everything together.
MMA Crossfire: I see. Which new artists today strike you as pushing the musical envelope.
Erica Gimpel: I would say Esperanza Spalding. You know the bassist Esperanza?
MMA Crossfire: Please enlighten me.
Erica Gimpel: The jazz bassist? She’s insanely amazing. I don’t know if you saw the Oscars this year, she sang What a Wonderful World at the Oscars this year. She’s one of the leading jazz bassists of our time she’s 23-years-old. She’s incredible.
MMA Crossfire: I’ll have to check her out. Anyone else that strikes you?
Erica Gimpel: An artist that inspires me right now… Actually it was a dialogue that really inspired me. Do you know who Tavis Smiley is? He has his own show here in the United States.
MMA Crossfire: Yes of course.
Erica Gimpel: Tavis Smiley had a really amazing conversation with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer when they were nominated for the Oscar for the film The Help. It was an incredible dialogue and it really inspired me as an artist. Viola Davis was saying how especially as a woman of color, especially in America – and I don’t know if it’s the same for Canada – sometimes there’s this really big pressure to play someone who’s upstanding, who has nobility, who’s respectful, who is a wonderful thing.
Because a lot of time characters are not written in that way or you feel a sense you want to have that kind of strength and respect. But she said human beings are messy. We have dark moments, we have light moments, and we have all sorts of things. And she was saying as an actor, she’s like, ‘I want to play all of that. I want to play all the palette of humanity. I don’t want to have to be limited to just this kind of way.’ And I think for me what that really inspired me, because as an actress and also as a musician myself, I definitely want to inspire people. And FAME caused so much inspiration for people to follow their dreams artistically. But it’s that fine line of saying, “I really want to inspire you but I can’t be afraid to go into the darkness of aspects of humanity either, because that shines a light on what people struggle with. Know what I’m saying?
MMA Crossfire: That’s pretty deep.
Erica Gimpel: Yeah. So that really inspired me. And I really love what’s she up to in terms of the different kinds of roles she likes to play in terms of being able to go into darkness and yet also going into light. Just being free to paint fully the palette. I have a song, which will be on the record called Soldier Boys, which is about an actual event that happened in Iraq that happens to do with American soldiers. And it’s looking at just what our men and women go through when they go over to war and some of the atrocities they’re asked to perform and yet come back and fit back into society like everything’s cool. But that’s not true. My point is that I feel it’s freeing to have the self-permission to go into what’s not pretty and bring life to it. Because that’s I think how life illuminates and really teaches, inspires and awakens people. And that’s the kind of art I like to be apart of.
MMA Crossfire: And now you’ll need to give me a couple of minutes to digest that.
Erica Gimpel: (Laughs) OK.
MMA Crossfire: That brings me into another question. Three fundamental truths of being in show business.
Erica Gimpel: Three fundamental truths, hard to say, that’s a great question.
It ebbs and flows, meaning that you can be in a flow of work, and then you can have moments where you feel it’s drying up. You need persistence to be apart of this work. Such rock-solid persistence. And I think the third for me is, you have to love it in order to stay in it, or the battle scars they will fling upon you… (Laughs).
And I also think it’s really important that you keep growing, challenging yourself to go further because you can get stuck in one way of being, which can become very limiting.
MMA Crossfire: I see. So then what did you do to challenge yourself to come up with this new album? Because you did Spread Your Wings and Fly. What process did you undertake? Was it organic or did you craft something to come up with this album?
Erica Gimpel: I think I took risks in terms of life experiences. Went places that I was hesitant to go which then spurred new music like the instrumental piece Freedom. So by leaping more into my life, it brought out new music in me. I pushed the envelope in choosing to take on more experiences that I might not have in the past.
MMA Crossfire: Can you give me an example?
Erica Gimpel: I mean like traveling, like going and working in another country for example, that at first I was really hesitant to do. But by taking that leap into the unknown – because I didn’t know what I was going to step into going there – it opened up something in me that would not have opened up had I not stepped into that experience. So that’s what I mean by expanding and saying yes to things that maybe in the past I might have been afraid to say yes to.
MMA Crossfire: I’m guessing that country wasn’t Canada.
Erica Gimpel: No, that country was Ireland.
MMA Crossfire: That certainly expanded your horizons.
Erica Gimpel: That brought some really cool music out and exposed me to cool musicians that really helped me grow as an artist.
MMA Crossfire: You obviously have a loyal fan base. Do you find that the people that buy your music tend to be either FAME fans or fans of your previous work?
Erica Gimpel: Yes. And sometimes what’s been cool about playing out here in the States is that people who really knew I was an actor didn’t know I played and composed so that’s been kind of cool too, meeting new people who didn’t know me until seeing me play somewhere. So that’s been kind of cool too, but definitely it’s come from some of my older work that people find.
MMA Crossfire: So you can have generations of fans discovering different sections of your work. That’s pretty cool.
Erica Gimpel: Yeah, that is really cool.
MMA Crossfire: Do you think shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars help or hinder the perception of the business or getting into it?
Erica Gimpel: You know, it’s so funny; I was watching The Voice last night. It’s really cool. The premise I really like, because everyone’s who’s a judge is also a coach and is also performing. So it’s not like they’re just sitting there watching idly and giving their critique. They’re actually getting up there and performing with their team. It’s a really interesting concept. I think what’s cool about it is you have a person who’s well-established taking a new person under their wing, coaching them, and then singing side-by-side with them at the same time. It’s a different premise.
I think the dance of our society – and I don’t know you feel about this so I’d be interested in your take – I think this whole overnight success fantasy that for whatever reason America, the world creates. A lot of these young artists have either been singing prior to coming to the show or have the good fortune to connect with this opportunity, which is going to help launch them. But it’s also like you don’t get to see what somebody is made of until after they’ve left the show, what happens to them afterward if they don’t win. Or the people who come to the show prior, they’re in their 30s and have being singing for years and years in the club. Like one guy on the show was singing background for Alicia Keys for years. Great singer. So he’s getting the opportunity to shine as a solo artist now. But everybody comes from somewhere and they come with training and a past. So there’s a part of me that says, ‘Wow! Look at how amazing they are!’ You kind of want to know about their past.
I don’t know if I’m making sense. My point is that a lot of times it’s not an overnight success thing. People have come with some training and really are busting their ass to do something, challenge themselves.
That to me is more inspiring than the overnight success story.
MMA Crossfire: Interesting. We have Canadian Idol here, which is similar to American Idol and a few other similar shows. I thought they weren’t supportive enough of the contestants. Once the winner was crowned, it was up to them and only them to make a success of themselves. I don’t watch these shows a lot but maybe they’re starting to realize the contestants need support in all phases of the show including afterwards.
Erica Gimpel: That’s an interesting perspective. I don’t really know what they do on The Voice…
MMA Crossfire: My point is for all the winners of American and Canadian Idol, how many do you know right now?
Erica Gimpel: Exactly.
MMA Crossfire: I mean I remember Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Stoddard but I don’t know what happened to the rest of them…
Erica Gimpel: What’s interesting too is some of the people that don’t win. There’s certain people who did not win or got kicked off and then blew up. So the winning is not going to guarantee anything and being let go is not going to guarantee anything. It’s really the individual and what they’re going to do as they move forward. Know what I’m saying?
MMA Crossfire: I think it goes back to what you said. You have to know who you are and realize that just getting on the show is an opportunity.
Erica Gimpel: Exactly.
MMA Crossfire: And once you’re on the show, it’s up to you to figure out how to use it. Once you figure that out, your chances of breaking in are increased.
Erica Gimpel: Exactly. Yup.
MMA Crossfire: And I believe on The Voice they don’t see the participants, they listen only to their voice.
Erica Gimpel: Exactly. That’s what attracted me to it because they’re actually sitting there with their backs to the person and whoever inspires them to turn around -because of their voice only – do they turn around. That’s really cool because it has nothing to with how that person looks.
MMA Crossfire: You recently went to Italy. Talk about that experience.
Erica Gimpel: In November 2011 I was asked to go to Parma, Italy to perform in a benefit concert that would be raising money for families in Italy who were having a hard time affording groceries and also for an orphanage in India. The benefit concert grew into a show that was called the ‘Box of Dreams’. I was flown to Italy where I met up with Nia Peeples, Jesse Borrego and Cynthia Gibb and we had an incredible time!
We sang some of the old fame songs like Starmaker and of course FAME and I also sang two songs from my CD, Love will Come Back to Me and Spread Your Wings. What was so surprising to me was how much the Fame songs were still loved and what warm reception we were met with. I sang one of the songs from Fame that happened to be my favorite I Still Believe in Me and was so surprised to look out into the audience during the night of the concert to see women singing along with me with tears in their eyes as if the song has become their own personal anthem. Also the band that was backing us up, Disco Inferno, had studied the songs from my CD so by the time we got to rehearsal they had all the harmonies worked out. It was wonderful collaborating with them.
The narration of the show was in Italian so I couldn’t understand a lot of it but at one point during the show an actor read a Pablo Neruda poem. Now during a rehearsal, this actor overheard me playing one of my instrumentals on the piano entitled Joyce’s Serenade and he asked me if I would accompany his reading with my song, and we were communicating in broken English and the few words I knew in Italian but somehow we got to understand each other and of course I said Yes! And then all at once it dawned on me I was collaborating beyond languages, through music and poetry we came together. That was a special moment for me.
I think what summed up the experience was when the producer of the whole event Stefano said in his Italian/English the reason he likes to create projects like this is because he likes to share love with people. That’s what the Parma experience was, an experience from the heart. I am filled with gratitude when I can fill my life with moments like that!
MMA Crossfire: Fascinating. 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the TV show FAME and the 25th anniversary of the last episode. Talk about FAME’s significance.
Erica Gimpel: What really floors me, and this is what I’ve gotten and it indicates how far-reaching the show really became over time. And what I mean by that specifically is how many people it inspired to follow their dreams. Especially people of color who have contacted me and sent letters or through Facebook. for example a fan from Sweden who was actually Peruvian, who hadn’t seen anybody who looked like her on a TV show. It really gave a confirmation to some people from Holland, who hadn’t seen anybody who looked like them.
It gave people a confirmation that yes, you can go for what it is you truly desire. And I think it ignited an inspirational flame in a lot of people that continued to resonate and has spun off… I don’t know a lot of Canadian shows, but in terms of America, the TV show Glee, and now this new TV show called Smash, which is a behind the scenes look at a musical bound for Broadway, so it’s a musical theatre show that’s doing very well. And Glee’s success in terms of the high school Glee Club and all the musical numbers they perform. But FAME was very groundbreaking during it’s time. And what I think is unique about it is being able to harness youthful energy, that volatile, passionate, alive energy and be able to focus it in a direction, is so imperative. I feel that’s what we need in our world right now, so that our youth can really focus their energy to create something that’s really meaningful so they’re alive. That’s what it’s meant to me over the years.
MMA Crossfire: Has anyone contacted you about doing something for the anniversary?
Erica Gimpel: No, I haven’t heard anything.
MMA Crossfire: When was the last time you spoke with one of the gang?
Erica Gimpel: Well as I said I was in Italy with some people. Probably been a year with some of them. I sometimes will see Lee (Curreri), he’s come out to some of my gigs in L.A., I saw Valerie (Landsberg) at the premiere of the new FAME movie in LA, and recently shared one of my favorite tracks from my CD entitled Love will Come Back to Me with Lori Singer, because of her playing and love of the cello, and my song has a beautiful cello line that I wanted her to hear. Then Debbie (Allen), invited me to the opening of her dance studio in Los Angeles which was wonderful to see what she had created and the incredible talent coming out of her school.
MMA Crossfire: I can’t see the 30th anniversary going by without somebody doing something.
Erica Gimpel: Yes. We’re not halfway through the year yet, so we’ll see.
MMA Crossfire: Was it around the end of FAME, that you started dabbling with the piano?
Erica Gimpel: Yeah, well I actually started playing the piano when I was five. But I didn’t continue, like I played maybe from five to eight or nine, like really studying intensely, then I stopped and started doing other things and then came back to it around high school sort of dabbled and then really started studying songwriting when I came back to New York.
MMA Crossfire: Compare back then and now the transition from TV to theatre.
Erica Gimpel: Well, I had really wanted to do theatre in New York, so for me it was something I was really looking forward to doing. But back then was very different than now. Now, a lot of people who have done TV draw people to the theatre, but back then it was very separate. If you had done television and were successful, it was like, ‘Well, you gotta prove to us you can do theatre,’ you know? It was a different time. So I had to pay my dues as it were (Laughs). But it was good and very different. It wasn’t the kind of Hollywood life; it was about what are you made of? When you’re on stage, there’s nowhere to hide. You’re up there. And I had some really great experiences in New York. I did a play off-Broadway called Each Day Dies with Sleep by a wonderful playwright Jose Rivera.
Did you ever hear about the film The Motorcycle Diaries? He wrote that and was nominated for the Oscar for it. He’s a very prolific playwright and screenwriter. So I was a lead there which was very transformative for my life. I continued to go back to the theatre and I ended up doing a Sam Shepard play, (State of Shock) which was a dream come true for me, working with John Malcovich. Then my favorite play, Intimate Apparel, which was written by the wonderful playwright Lynn Nottage. She’s an African-American woman and a wonderful Pulitzer prize winning writer.
My point is that the transition was challenging because it was so different and I was always learning new ropes and new ways of doing things.
Erica Gimpel: What I really learned over many years – 30 years – is what sustains you is the love of the craft itself. The love of working on a role that I’m so excited about. The love of writing songs that I get so inspired by. The love of the play that I just say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s such an exciting play.’ Or a film script. It’s such a exercise in inner strength.
MMA Crossfire: I don’t think I could have said it any better than that. So you were dealing with all of that and then bang, all that work kind of developed that opportunity for Profiler.
Erica Gimpel: Yeah.
MMA Crossfire: And then you were back in on the train again. Did Profiler come before E.R. or was it the other way around?
Erica Gimpel: It was simultaneous. I was doing two series at the same time.
MMA Crossfire: Describe that.
Erica Gimpel: It was crazy! At one point, I was going to work on Profiler and then I was going to work on E.R. and I was shooting scenes with George Clooney and then going back to working with Ally (Walker) and other people on Profiler.
It was exhilarating. It was incredible, that time period. It really was. I learned a lot about hard work and dedication. It’s so much more than acting sometimes. Yes it’s the acting, but it’s like when you’re on a show, how do you keep all the crew in a good state? That’s what I learned from George Clooney. He was so great on the set. He would have the cameramen on the set laughing and that’s a big part of the television show. You want to make sure your crew is happy.
MMA Crossfire: Because you’re with them 20-hour days and if they’re not happy…
Erica Gimpel: It’s not fun. It’s just not fun. And it’s a big, big extended family of people working really long hours. I’ve really learned that over the years. Again, it goes back to: How are your leadership skills? You kind of need the energy on the set. You do. You need it. And I was really impressed with Maggie (Maggie Q) on Nikita because she really takes care of her crew in a really beautiful way.
MMA Crossfire: Fascinating. Because ER at the time was the number-one rated show and there you were, doing your thing. Was it a little bit different this time, because you were a little bit older and wiser maybe?
Erica Gimpel: Yeah. You know, I had had a real aversion for Hollywood; I didn’t really want to come back out here honestly. I would have stayed in New York, but I was in a relationship at that time. And it was great in realizing because I got to face something. Not run away, but when something has a past for you and then you go back as an adult and you face it, you kind of shine a light on what was kind of like a ghoul or something. And I was able to do that, and therefore I freed myself. It was great. That was real important. So in that way, it was different.
MMA Crossfire: And can you break down a typical shooting day at that time?
Erica Gimpel: Well, I would have to make sure the shooting days were not going to overlap, so my days on Profiler would not conflict with the days on E.R. I had to double-check to make sure that was going to be OK. If my call-time was 6 a.m., I’m up at like 4 a.m. heading over there and then working. If I had lot of scenes, I’d be there all day. The day after the next , I’d be going to Profiler and switching heads. What was so good was that it was a consistent character, so it wasn’t like I was having to play a different character all the time, but it enabled me to really develop these two characters that I really fell in love with. Do you follow what I’m saying?
MMA Crossfire: Yes, I think I get it. I was just thinking that E.R. probably made you more aware of the issues of the medical community.
Erica Gimpel: Well what was cool was that my role on E.R. was a social worker. I wasn’t a doctor; I was a social worker at the hospital and I had friend at the time who was a social worker and I went out with her into the real world and shadowed her. It was really informative for me, so much so that it ended up inspiring me to write a pilot TV script about social work and homelessness in America. These two women who become friends, but one is a social worker within the system and the other had been a social worker but now is running hew own grassroots organization, helping homeless families. The pilot script is entitled Hard Choices. So it not only helped me for the actual E.R. show, but it really gave me insight into some of the realities within the system in the United States.
MMA Crossfire: What is your personal and professional viewpoint on social media?
Erica Gimpel: Well, I think the positive thing of it is it’s bringing our world so much closer. It’s empowering young people to take their own creativity in their own hands, which is amazing. You can get a little camera and create your own video, music or web series. It’s very empowering, not having to go the old route, per se. I definitely grew up with going to record stores, and there’s something beautiful about having the hard copy, the CD in your hands. I’m definitely in a different generation, but I think iTunes is amazing, to have that library at your fingertips to download that song you really want in a second. It makes everything so instantaneous, at your fingertips. So that’s how I feel about that.
In terms of social media, for me, honestly, I mean I have my own Facebook thing but, but some of it … when people are like, ‘I’m going to the store. I’m doing this,’ it’s a little much for me. There’s a voyeuristic thing that’s occurred. You can follow everybody and hear what they’re doing every second but how present are we being in what we’re actually doing or are we just announcing what we’re doing to everybody while we’re doing it? Are you really in the moment where you are? Are you in the moment, letting everybody know where you are? It’s an odd thing.
MMA Crossfire: If you weren’t an actress or musician, what do you think you’d be doing today?
Erica Gimpel: I think I would be traveling to a lot of different places in the world. Like in New Zealand, I’d be seeing a lot of indigenous cultures all over the world. Understanding, looking at how they lived over time, that’s probably what I’d be doing.
MMA Crossfire: You strike me as someone who keeps up with current events…
Erica Gimpel: Yes.
MMA Crossfire: So I was curious about your thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case.
Erica Gimpel: Very, very disturbing. Very disturbing law, that Stand Your Ground law. I just find that law very disturbing and how it’s now been extended past somebody’s home and into a community and how you can user and bend the law in ways I don’t feel is proper. I think it really speaks to a bigger issue in America and I wish I could speak more to Canada as well but I do feel like we have to heal the racism in this country. We have to heal it. Because I really feel that is what tears the fabric of America apart. i really, really do. It really is disheartening to me. Disheartening. But I’m so glad that Zimmerman has been charged. I’m very grateful for that. Very grateful.
MMA Crossfire: I hear you. Obviously, it’s a tough situation and yet with President Obama in office, there seems to be a groundswell on both sides of the case. I was reading that your father is Slavic, is that correct?
Erica Gimpel: Yes.
MMA Crossfire: And your mother is African-American.
Erica Gimpel: Yes.
MMA Crossfire: So you’ve seen this pretty much from the beginning.
Erica Gimpel: Yes.
MMA Crossfire: You said it’s disheartening, but is there a chance we;ll be able to learn somehow from this and move the country forward in some way?
Erica Gimpel: That’s my prayer. People have taken to the streets here and its been very volatile. And I think it’s there hasn’t been much justice done for this shooting until now. I think for me personally when you mention my racial background… because I don’t always think of the world from this perspective – I’m just moonwalking around living my life – but the gift I feel like it’s given me in my life is fully recognizing each person’s cultural gifts. And I just feel as a world if we can get to a place of celebrating our differences rather than having our racial, religious, ethnic cultural rituals separate us , rather that we can celebrate the uniqueness each on of us offers, then we can have some semblance of understanding and of trying to have dialogue so that we can come together as a world. Know what I’m saying?
MMA Crossfire: Yes, dialogue is very important.
Erica Gimpel: Yeah. And not only, “We’re different here,” but where is the bridge that we come together at, our humanity. Where do we join? We see our differences, but where do we see our sameness? And also where do we celebrate our differences, thank goodness you view life differently than I do. You know?
MMA Crossfire: Yes, I get it. I think economics can bring things down quickly sometimes. The economy is not great and sometimes some vocal section tends to blame these problems on others. It seems to be a pattern not only in the United States but many countries.
Erica Gimpel: You know, there’s a great radio station here in Los Angeles called the Pacifica radio station, and it’s a pacifist radio station. And what’s so amazing about it is that they have archival audio of so many great thinkers. Interviews between Dr. King, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, just all these great thinkers. Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Wonderful journalists like Amy Goodman. People who have been peace builders in this world. And one man I heard said something that really stayed with me and this goes to what you’re speaking to. ‘When peace becomes as profitable as war, the world will starting honouring peace.’ It’s the financial question, which is what you’re saying. If creating peace really became more profitable than war there would be a different perspective.
MMA Crossfire: That’s a really keen observation.
Erica Gimpel: Isn’t it?
MMA Crossfire: It is, because war is profitable in so many ways.
Erica Gimpel: And keeping people divided is profitable in so many ways.
MMA Crossfire: Yes. A keen observation. That sort of brings me back because I believe you had a role on Babylon 5.
Erica Gimpel: Yes. (Laughs)
MMA Crossfire: I’m curious. Are you a Trekkie or into science fiction?
Erica Gimpel: Not really (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: So how did you end up on Babylon 5 then?
Erica Gimpel: I know! It was such a great role. It was this singer who was dying of this rare disease and Richard… Did you ever follow Babylon 5?
MMA Crossfire: I was more of a Star Trek fan.
Erica Gimpel: But the actor who was into was so amazing. we got to do such great work. And I also wrote the music to one of the songs I sang on the show. I was like, ‘I’m gonna do it!’
MMA Crossfire: And you did it.
Erica Gimpel: And that’s how I ended up doing that show.
MMA Crossfire: I see. It was an opportunity to develop a few things with a great role.
Erica Gimpel: Exactly.
MMA Crossfire: So how do you balance the ups and downs of the performing life?
Erica Gimpel: Hmm, long question (laughs). I feel like again for me it goes back to spirituality and I said earlier as we began my spiritual Buddhist practice has helped me for many many years in terms of having that strong solid internal base. And also because it helps me to determine what I really want now, because we’re always evolving, growing. And making sure I’m expanding and continually growing. I mean there’ still projects I want to create and films I want to do. I just feel like I’m still evolving, there’s still stages for me to grow. So in terms of balancing it, I just have to be nurturing myself in order to be growing.
But you know, it’s not an easy ride. Especially when you’re in like you’re saying that people aren’t seeing the seeds you’re planting yet. And it looks like, ‘Well, she’s gone underground,’ but you know you’ve gone underground because you’re planting, you’re not ready to show it yet. As I mature and become more at peace with the ebbs and flows of it. I don’t know if you become fully at peace with it.
MMA Crossfire: But you are a fighter at heart.
Erica Gimpel: I am. That’s true. I will say that. Someone once said to me, ‘You are very persistent.’ I was like, ‘That is true.’ (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: You will go over the door, under the door…
Erica Gimpel: Make a new door…
MMA Crossfire: So I have to ask you because you’re right there in California. What do you think of MMA? Have you seen it, what are your thoughts on it?
Erica Gimpel: I’ve only seen portions of it on TV. I never seen an actual live show. I’m blown away at the shape people are in. Unbelievable to me. That’s incredible. I think the training is incredible. That’s what I would say. Anything that keeps people developing and focused and strong, I mean that’s valuable. I don’t I’ve seen enough of it to really speak to it, you know what I mean? But that’s what I see in terms of a quick opinion.
MMA Crossfire: That’s fascinating. You seem pretty open-minded about it. There’s a lot of debate with MMA with some thinking it’s too violent and that sort of thing, so it’s interesting to hear your assessment.
Erica Gimpel: It’s interesting because they use a lot of mixed martial arts on Nikita. The fight co-ordinators are using it. A lot of the choreographed moves use it, so.
MMA Crossfire: Do you have any friends who are fans?
Erica Gimpel: I probably do, but none that comes to mind at this moment. Why?
MMA Crossfire: I was just curious, because it is the fastest growing sport in the world they say.
Erica Gimpel: Hmm.
MMA Crossfire: And the main company, the UFC has come from nowhere in the last 10 years or so to champion and grow the sport.
Erica Gimpel: Wow.
MMA Crossfire: I noticed there are a lot of similarities between the fighters and actors. They’ve had to train and fight – literally – to find success and overcome a lot of challenges along the way and figure out how to get to where they need to be.
Erica Gimpel: In terms of what they had to go through to get where they are at this point.
MMA Crossfire: Right.
MMA Crossfire: Erica, we really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. Is there anything you want to say to the readers before we go?
Erica Gimpel: I’m saying this to you. I really appreciate you reaching out and wanting to do this. I was surprised. I was like, ” How is MMA reaching out?” (Laughs). I just wanted to say Thank you, to you.
MMA Crossfire: I guess we were both surprised, because I didn’t expect you would say yes, so I’d like to say Thank you. And so you’re going to consider Toronto as a concert stop on a future tour.
Erica Gimpel: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MMA Crossfire: So I can say I convinced you to consider Toronto.
Erica Gimpel: You were the one! I will say it from the stage when I’m there!
MMA Crossfire: Hopefully I’ll be there to hear that…
Erica Gimpel: You will have a front row seat – there!
MMA Crossfire: Wow, that’s interesting. All right, let’s make that happen then.
Erica Gimpel: Heck, yeah!
MMA Crossfire: You surprised me there Erica! I don’t know what to say.
Erica Gimpel: Got you speechless now. (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: Yeah (Laughs). Let’s talk some basketball quickly before we go.
Erica Gimpel: I love basketball yeah. I’ve been watching the Knicks recently. I’m really proud of the games they were playing recently. I mean I’m from New York so…
MMA Crossfire: Well, you could be a Nets fan…
Erica Gimpel: I know, but I’m not.
MMA Crossfire: (Laughs). OK.
Erica Gimpel: But I was really proud of their play.
MMA Crossfire: Things will be really interesting for the playoffs.
Erica Gimpel: Yeah.
MMA Crossfire: Erica, it was a pleasure, thanks for chatting with us.
Erica Gimpel: Thank you Kenai.